In The Know: More women head to state prisons

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

More Women Head to State Prisons: Despite years of concern over Oklahoma’s high rate of female incarceration, the number of women sent to prison jumped again in the latest fiscal year. In fiscal 2016, which ended June 30, the number of women sent to Oklahoma prisons rose by 9.5 percent, from 1,593 to 1,744, data from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections shows. The total men imprisoned that year fell by about 1 percent, to 8,282. Statewide, the number of new prisoners increased by less than 1 percent [Oklahoma Watch].

Robert Henry: Vote to reform Oklahoma’s criminal justice system: The overarching goal of public policy should be to protect citizens, strengthen communities and yield a wise return on investment. To this end, one of the most important issues facing Oklahoma is the need to reform our criminal justice system. Politically motivated policies and ineffective sentencing guidelines cause a great deal of harm to the safety and health of communities across our state. Yet families, communities and future generations can benefit greatly from policies based on sound logic, evidence and research [Robert Henry / NewsOK].

In reducing staff to cut budget, DHS paid millions to departing employees: The Department of Human Services spent $14 million on employees who resigned or accepted voluntary buyouts from the state agency in fiscal 2016, a 70 percent increase over the prior year. The increase in so-called “terminal leave” payments comes as the agency continues to deal with decreasing staff in some areas while simultaneously increasing staff in another department. A spokeswoman said the increase in terminal pay was to be expected. DHS has reduced staff by more than 1,200 employees over the past two years, agency spokeswoman Sheree Powell said in an email [Tulsa World].

DHS Director: Agency needs citizen help in dealing with foster care challenge: We are so grateful to the thousands of Oklahomans who have opened their homes and their hearts to become foster and adoptive families to the children we serve. We could not do this work without the love and support of these families. There is yet more opportunity for Oklahomans to pitch in, as our greatest need remains to secure more homes for children with medical needs and developmental disabilities. Sadly, these are the children occupying emergency shelters and other facilities because there are not enough families for them [Ed Lake / Tulsa World].

State offices make big plans for share of $140M refund: Keeping the lights on and employees working at their desks are the modest goals of some government departments. Others will bank a windfall of returned money in anticipation of another bad year down the road. Come Tuesday, each state agency will get its share of a $140.8 million refund. The money was emptied from their respective budgets last spring, as state officials facing a $1.3 billion shortfall took drastic action to balance the government checkbook. Departments that handle schools, prisons, public safety, health and countless other government work have been due the money since July [Claremore Progress].

Teachers Speak About Dropping Hundreds on Supplies: Weeks into the school year, Oklahoma teachers may already be wondering if their August buying spree on behalf of their students was big enough. Every year, many teachers spend several hundred dollars buying classroom supplies, from pencils to wall decorations to learning apps. The pressure to do so is heightened this year because of cutbacks in state education spending and fears of future cuts, which have caused school districts to rein in expenses. That includes allotments for teachers to purchase supplies [Oklahoma Watch].

Public school teaching corps simultaneously becoming smaller, less expert: Oklahoma schools have asked the state Board of Education for more than 730 emergency teacher certifications so far this year. After record months in July and August, the state is on pace to deal with more emergency certifications requests this year than ever. Meanwhile, facing an inadequate and unfulfilled state education budget last year and continuation of that inadequacy this year, public schools have cut more than 1,530 teaching positions. In a recent story, The Oklahoman pointed out what it deemed a “paradox” that often the same schools are eliminating teaching positions and seeking emergency certifications for teachers who don’t have full credentials. We wouldn’t called it a paradox. We’d call it a tragedy [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Sunny opportunity for Oklahoma schools?: According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute and other reputable observers, “Oklahoma had the dubious honor of having made the deepest cuts to school funding in the nation since the start of the recession in 2008.” And as we know today our state’s budget dilemmas have only worsened in 2015 and 2016, with historic funding cuts further affecting investments in our public schools, our teachers and ultimately our young citizen students. But rather than focusing on the budget appropriation side of schools’ economics, I want to share an idea with our state leaders that might actually be a win-win for schools by creating real budget relief in the form of lowering their costs of operations and creating an income opportunity [Jim Roth / Journal Record].

Oklahoma cities resolutions against proposed state sales tax raises questions: If voters approve State Question 779, a one-cent sales tax increase for public education, it would put Piedmont’s sales tax rate over 10.8 percent, which is why Piedmont city council members passed a resolution last month urging its residents to vote in opposition on Nov. 8. Councils in Edmond, Midwest City, Kingfisher and several other cities have passed similar resolutions asking voters to join their opposition. But those resolutions have drawn questions about whether they violate state law, which prohibits public officials from using taxpayer funds to oppose or support a state ballot initiative [NewsOK].

Oklahomans to face tightened ID requirements at federal installations: It will be harder for some Oklahomans to get into military facilities starting Oct. 10 because state legislators have refused to comply with a federal act meant to improve the reliability of driver’s licenses. Officials at Tinker Air Force Base and Fort Sill confirmed Friday that once the deadline passes, the Oklahoma driver’s license will no longer be sufficient for entry. People will instead need a second form of government-issued photo identification, like a U.S. passport. This will affect visitors as well as drivers making deliveries. People who work or live on base will not be affected as they already have military-issued credentials [NewsOK].

Policy Talk At The Shop Set At Barber Shop In Lawton: Lawton residents are teaming up with Together Oklahoma to host Policy Talk at the Shop from 4-6 p.m. Sept. 24 at Ice Tre’s Barber Shop, 2104 W. Gore. Together Oklahoma (TOK) describes itself as a nonpartisan coalition of citizens and organizations working to secure a robust future for Oklahoma. Its efforts involve grassroots education and advocacy that connect Oklahoma values to state budget priorities. It is primarily staffed and funded by the Oklahoma Policy Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank [Lawton Constitution].

Joe Dorman: You can be a part of the formation of legislation: While the Oklahoma Legislature is out of session, there is still plenty of work to be done at the state Capitol. Legislators meet at the Capitol from the first Monday in February to potentially the final Friday in May under the Oklahoma Constitution. Senators and representatives alike will continue working on policies through the rest of the year in either preparation for potential changes to the law or possibly reviewing the success or failure of policies already implemented. This is where the interim study comes into play [Joe Dorman / Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Attorney General Pruitt’s campaign team spends a lot on itself but little on elections: Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and his campaign team have spent nearly $657,000 since the beginning of 2015, even though Pruitt can’t run for re-election and hasn’t announced his intent to run for another office. An average of $36,000 a month has been disbursed from three different election- related committees connected to Pruitt, with most of the privately donated money going to consultants and travel. Election laws are loose enough to allow the spending, disconnected as it is from a specific race or even multiple races [The Oklahoman].

Inhofe tries to relax medical rules for private pilots: A Republican senator is trying to relax the medical requirements for private pilots who fly small planes, drawing complaints from Democrats who say is he is going back on a compromise that became law only two months ago. Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, an avid, 81-year-old pilot who has had a quadruple heart bypass, is trying to eliminate a requirement that pilots have a statement from their doctor saying that they don’t have a medical condition that would interfere with their ability to safely operate a plane [Associated Press].

Agenda for Tar Creek conference set: Oklahoma’s oldest Environmental Justice organization, Local Environmental Action Demanded (LEAD) Agency, Inc. announces plans for its 18th Annual Environmental Conference at Tar Creek. The conference will be Tuesday and Wednesday at the Civic Center, starting at 9 a.m. each day. Those attending can register online at or at the door. Ottawa County residents can attend free of charge and scholarships are also available [Miami News-Record].

Quote of the Day

“All funding has been decreased for substance abuse services in the state, mental health services in the state, all of our diversion courts have been hit, so yeah, it has an impact. We’ve been telling them you can’t continue to not fund core services in your state and act like it’s not going to have an impact.”

-Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, who said state funding cuts to mental health services and public safety have likely contributed to the county sending 33 percent more women and 5 percent more men to prison in fiscal year 2016 (Source).

Number of the Day


Number of traffic cases considered by Oklahoma courts in FY 2015.

Source: Supreme Court of Oklahoma

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

After Texas Slashed Its Family Planning Budget, Maternal Deaths Almost Doubled: Pregnancy-related deaths nearly doubled in Texas between 2010 and 2012, and researchers are at a loss to say why. According to a new study, published in the September issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the spike in the mortality rate is difficult to explain “in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval.” This alarming development coincided with the state’s decision to slash its family planning budget by two-thirds in 2011—an attempt to shut down abortion providers that ultimately forced 82 clinics, many of which never performed the controversial procedure, to close [Slate].

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

2 thoughts on “In The Know: More women head to state prisons

  1. Kudos to Oklahoma Watch for capturing the major cause of the state’s problems in criminal justice in its quote from OK County DA Prater. Tulsa CO faces the same “state funding” problems as OK CO but ends up with real progress, primarily among females but also to a lesser degree with males. Prater, otoh, says it’s oh so complicated and somebody’s else’s fault and really who knows what the major causes are, when the major cause looks back at him and his fellow DAs every morning when they shave and/or fix their makeup.

  2. Also remember that Mr. Prater is “The Good DA” whose presence is always required in any efforts at reforming these problems. Which should be the place to start, for ex, when the governor’s new reform group [sic] ends up as successful as all its predecessors. Speaker Steele’s initiative approach taking the power out of the hands of “stakeholders” like the OK County DA is the only realistic way of getting around that persistent blockage, even if it fails the first time around in November. Most current crim just initiatives that are working started out failing but kept the ball moving until acceptance, after all.

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